Liked on YouTube: “An anthropological introduction to YouTube” and how this led me to thinking about the disruptive power of the MOOC

Liked on YouTube: An anthropological introduction to YouTube

I’ve spent a fair bit of time this week wrestling with MOOCs and the issue of scale or MASSIVE and its impact and influence on the community. I feel that a lot of people, mistakenly, think that the disruptive force that is often quoted in any news article on MOOCs (especially for around 2012) is that of technology when in reality the choice to distribute an educational course using technology doesn’t really require any disruption, in fact, it doesn’t really require any change to pedagogy at all (Farrow 2015 and Knox 2014).   The truly disruptive element of the MOOC was the involvement of Silicon Valley and their marketing pitch of scale.

Once we start getting into the regions of hundreds of students and one-course teacher, things become more difficult. That guidance and support associated with the role of the teacher become difficult to maintain and one to one is time-consuming, scale that up again to tens of thousands of students and it becomes impossible. This is where the role of self-directed learner becomes vital, students on courses with this size of enrolment must be self-sufficient and require no scaffold from the teacher. So can we say that this is a barrier to education in this format and that it is a barrier to the open tag that MOOC providers like to throw around? I would argue it is.

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at community online with most of our readings focusing (particularly Kozinet (2010) and Stewart (2013)) on the participation through various forms of forums and the development of the individual’s participation in the community. This led nicely into our netnography project where we tried to look at the communities of MOOCs, mostly using the forums provided in them. There seemed to be two main themes that came out of our experiment, forums where few people participated, perhaps a sign of the MOOC as a space for self-directed learning with little inclination to form ties or community with other students and scale where there was so much going on that it was difficult for any individual to participate fully in “community”.

Kozinet’s (2010) take on consumption got me thinking about the internet and the various communities I am currently or have been part of, various communities based around a forum for a particular topic and those where there is a strong community ethos that doesn’t revolve around a forum per say lead me to think of youtube.
Youtube was created in the spirit of Web 2.0 as a maker space for user-generated video content in a time where it was not easy to share a video on the internet. There was no initial thought on how this would create a community and very little options were given for discussion, simply the ability to comment or like videos. However, youtube creators ( or YouTubers) can now be seen to hold massive communities of hundreds of thousands of dedicated followers (subscribers) and even I can boast of over 1000 views on videos, but what tied all this together for me was my netnography of a MOOC and my focus on peer review. Let me explain. On youtube, if you like a video you can mark it as a good video with a thumbs up. You can also write a comment to the YouTuber about the video. Essentially this is a crude peer review. How it differs from my peer review experience on the MOOC, however, is that the content creator has the ability to comment back (discuss) with the reviewer as do ever another person who comes across that video and so the comment thread.

This discussion by both viewers and the content creator is what helps build community.

Farrow, R., 2015. Open education and critical pedagogy. Learning, media and technology, pp.1–17. Available at:
Knox, J., 2014. Digital culture clash: “massive” education in the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Distance Education, 35(2), pp.164–177. Available at:
Kozinets, R.V., 2010. Understanding Culture Online. In Netnography: doing ethnographic research online. London: Sage, pp. 21–40. Available at:
Stewart, B., 2013. Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), pp.228–238. Available at: